Proper Sleep and Treatment Will Reduce Your Vulnerability to the Coronavirus
The Coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it is referred to specifically, has spread quickly throughout the world and is still causing drastic changes to communities in shock from its impact. But when a pathogen spreads that quickly through populations, sometimes your best defense is a healthy lifestyle and a resilient immune system. For those with sleep apnea, this means optimal sleep conditions and a high level of treatment adherence, but not without increased attention to hygiene and cleanliness. Not only can PAP therapy lead to better sleep health, which strengthens the immune system, but it will help you breathe whether or not you contract the illness. These measures are first-line defenses against contagion, and depending on your condition, can potentially keep you from high-risk or high-vulnerability status. Disorders such as sleep apnea can compromise the immune system and leave patients vulnerable to virus infections, but a sleep-apnea diagnosis alone does not necessarily mean you are high-risk. Healthy choices in daily life, including consistent treatment using the best PAP-therapy options for your particular condition, can make all the difference between a strong resistance and high vulnerability.
What is the Coronavirus?
COVID-19, an acronym for Coronavirus Disease 2019, is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus) pathogen, first discovered in Wuhan, China. SARS-CoV-2 is one type of coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization website, coronaviruses are a type of RNA virus (virus made up of ribonucleic acid) that take the name “corona” or “crown” because their membranes are covered in a crown of spike-like proteins that help them enter their hosts. This family of viruses have been around for many years, but more often cause much milder illnesses such as a common cold or seasonal respiratory infection. The COVID-19 illness, however, can be deadly to those unable to fight off the attack. Believed to have originated in animals, the COVID-19 pathogen is a new strain that can spread fast in crowded areas like major cities or community centers.
The COVID-19 pathogen spreads through saliva or other bodily fluids, most often from airborne droplets, or by touching surfaces and then touching your mouth, nose, eyes, scratches or wounds. One of the primary dangers of the coronavirus is that individuals who have contracted the illness remain infectious before the signs of symptoms arrive, and will remain infectious for several days after becoming sick. This means that keeping distance from people who show signs of illness may not be enough. As a result of this, most areas of the world currently affected are implementing rules against social gatherings.
Common signs of COVID-19 infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, soreness or aching, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause the development of pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), organ failure, and death. While an antiviral vaccine has not yet been developed for this particular pathogen, treatment and prevention consists mainly of treating individual symptoms, along with plenty of rest, vitamin therapy, stress relief, and self isolation. Oxygen therapy is also necessary in some cases, especially more severe cases where pneumonia or other respiratory issues are present.
Sleep, CPAP, and Keeping Yourself Well
Even if you cannot avoid being high-risk for COVID-19 illness, if you are a senior or a young person, or if you have comorbid conditions that affect your health, you will still benefit from healthy choices and proper treatment. Everyday choices like proper sleep hygiene and regular adherence to treatment will always make a difference to overall health and longevity, and especially when consistent. According to the Alaska Sleep Center, sufficient sleep allows our bodies to produce cytokines, which are a type of protein used by our immune systems to target infection and inflammation for resistance and repair. Insufficient sleep, on the other hand, can compromise this system and reduce the effectiveness of any treatments. In addition, studies have found that CPAP therapy bolsters immune responses when adherence is high. Thus, the more you are able to use CPAP, and use it safely taking all precautions listed above, the more your defenses will be prepared for a possible infection. And since increased adherence improves your chances of getting uninterrupted sleep and proper breathing during the night, the benefits to your health can be exponential.
Sleep Apnea and Vulnerability: Things to Watch Out For
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) recently released a list of recommendations for sleep apnea patients to help with PAP therapy and hygiene issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the AASM, if proper cleaning procedures are not followed, CPAP could potentially increase the risk of spreading the virus, especially if you have been infected. Precautions should be taken including the regular cleaning and disinfecting of medical equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions. For CPAP masks and hoses, normally a daily cleaning with soap and water is sufficient, but if you use CPAP during the day as well, you may want to clean the equipment after each use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends cleaning and disinfecting any frequently touched surfaces in the home, including door knobs, light switches and especially sink handles or toilets.
CPAP company ResMed have also released a list of hygiene reminders for patients that includes frequent hand washing, equipment cleaning, and sterilization. ResMed warns of touching the face while setting up for CPAP therapy. They also remind all patients with health concerns to seek care and guidance from a healthcare professional, even in cases of “normal, mild symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, fever, or having difficulty breathing.” ResMed urges self-preventive care in order to keep safe in the home and limit any potential exposures.
In addition to proper hygiene and sleep health, it is also recommended that people take care of their mental health as much as they do their physical health. Anxiety over the coronavirus outbreak is a serious issue, and should be treated accordingly. UC Health suggests that a daily limit on social media could help individuals defocus from the problems of the pandemic. Remembering to breathe deeply and slowly can also trigger the parasympathetic nervous system to slow the heart rate and increases intestinal and glandular activities. All of this affects the immune system and increases resistance to the threat of COVID-19.
If you suspect you might have a COVID-19 infection, please contact your medical provider as soon as possible. The faster you act, the better off your chances will be of overcoming the infection, and the safer the community will be as a result. Everyone is affected by this crisis, but the more we take precautions and stay positive, the better off we will be in the fight against this illness. We don’t have to live in fear, but regardless of the dangers, we can continue to be health-conscious and keep ourselves and our loved ones on a path to wellness.
Alaska Sleep Center – https://www.alaskasleep.com/blog/sleep-and-covid-19
American Academy of Sleep Medicine – https://aasm.org/coronavirus-covid-19-faqs-cpap-sleep-apnea-patients
CDC Coronavirus Factsheet – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/2019-ncov-factsheet.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/cleaning-disinfection.html
Immunology Today – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2186751
Jackson Library – https://www.jax.org/coronavirus
Journal of Immunological Research – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4568388/
StatPearls Publishing – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554776/
World Health Organization – https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus